Berlinale: Jack impresses with great performances
by Stefan Dobroiu
- Director Edward Berger expertly delves into childhood problems and responsibility issues
One of the first films screened at the Berlinale competition represents German director Edward Berger’s return to the big screen after a decade of television productions. Jack [+see also:
film profile], the story of a ten-year-old boy who stubbornly defies life’s challenges, is compelling and introduces to the audience an impressive and very young talent, Ivo Pietzcker.
Jack lives with his mother, Sonna (Luise Heyer) and younger brother Manuel (Georg Arms) in their Berlin apartment. It is summertime and the family spends its days in the city’s parks, singing and playing. But it soon becomes obvious that not everything is perfect in Jack’s family – quite the contrary, in fact. Sonna, a party girl who throws herself into the arms of every man who catches her attention, cannot cope with the responsibility of being a mother of two children. It is Jack who takes care of Manuel, preparing his meals and choosing his clothes. He is always there, constantly making sure that nothing bad happens to the family. But how can a ten-year-old fill the shoes of both a mother and a father? Soon an accident tears the family apart, and the child welfare services send Jack to a state-run home.
Co-written by the director together with Nele Mueller Stöfen, the screenplay is very effective, and no time is wasted with meaningless action. It is a screenplay worthy of its protagonist, as the determined Jack has such a strong will. But how long will it take for the boy’s strength to be exhausted? How long will Jack and Manuel wander the streets and sleep in underground car parks, until the truth is revealed?
No other title could be found for Berger’s third feature, as Jack is always at the centre of everything that is happening. The director refuses to show other points of view, completely absorbed in his hero’s misadventures. One could not find a more sincere and effective way to show the changes in Jack’s emotional world, and the audience must follow the director’s lead as observers of the boy’s painful, implacable coming of age.
The film is enhanced by DoP Jens Harant’s use of the camera (always shooting at the young actor’s eye level) and an exploration of a warm and colourful Berlin that journalists and film buffs attending the festival may wish to discover after coming out of the cinemas. The contrast between the city’s green parks or relaxed atmosphere and Jack’s bleak experiences is highly effective, and the director highlights this by always paying close attention to Ivo Pietzcker’s reactions. “The film was intended to take place in the boy’s face,” says Berger in the film’s press kit, and Pietzker proves he has great potential on the silver screen. Born in Berlin, the promising young actor carries the film on his own, and nobody would be surprised if Jack is only the first in a series of great characters that he plays.
After kicking off yesterday with a screening of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel [+see also:
film profile], the Berlinale competition has got off on the right foot – thanks to Jack.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.